You’ve written essays, submitted transcripts, and forwarded GRE scores. Now on to the tedious waiting game. After months of habitually checking your e-mail, the answers arrive…
“…we regret to inform you that we are unable to offer you admission at this time….”
”….due to the competitive applicant pool…”
“…we wish you luck with your future academic pursuits…”
Denied admission– now what??
Being denied admission to your dream school can feel like the end of the line, but it doesn’t have to be. Many DPT students (myself included) have been in this position. While this news seems devastating, with some hard work you can improve your eligibility for PT school and apply again next cycle.
Here are 5 things to do before reapplying to a DPT program:
1. Complete more observation hours
Even if your potential school only requires one observation site, students with multiple observation experiences display versatility. Physical therapists work in a variety of settings (outpatient clinics, pediatric centers, aquatic centers, etc.). When searching for additional observation experiences, look for sites where you can observe physical therapists working with different populations than your prior observation site(s).
Keep in mind, some sites such as hospitals may require additional paperwork such as background checks and health records before you can observe. Look into these opportunities early to ensure you have enough time to meet your observation hour goals. I would suggest contacting sites at least a month before you intend to start your observation hours.
Don’t forget to thank your supervisors upon completion of your observation experiences. These individuals may be willing to write you letters of recommendation or have contacts to share for additional observation opportunities. Bonus points for handwritten thank you notes!
2. Observe other careers
While this action may seem fruitless when you are set to pursue a career in physical therapy, observing other professionals can be very beneficial. Take this time to observe other professions, healthcare and otherwise, and reevaluate your career decision. This step can help you answer several big questions such as: What’s the difference between physical and occupational therapy (PT vs OT)? What do athletic trainers do, and how is that different from PTs and OTs? What does a job in public health look like?
On one hand, after some observation you may find that another career looks more appealing to you than physical therapy. In contrast, observing other careers can reaffirm your passion for physical therapy. The opportunity to compare and contrast several careers provides great content for application essays and interview questions.
During an interview, I spoke about my experiences observing an occupational therapist and working in a fitness center to express my dedication to the profession of physical therapy. I felt confident asserting my passion for physical therapy by comparing and contrasting this career to others that I had explored.
Observation recommendations: Occupational therapists, physician assistants, fitness center directors, athletic trainers, and/or strength and conditioning coaches.
3. Take or Retake Classes
You may have noticed that each school’s prerequisite requirements differ from one another. While looking into next year’s application, consider taking additional classes to fulfill school prerequisites that you may have missed.
Additionally, consider retaking classes to refresh your knowledge of the subject and possibly increasing your GPA. (Each school has specific requirements for GPA calculation– research before enrolling!) Refreshing your knowledge on key subjects, such as anatomy and physiology and biomechanics, increases your eligibility for a DPT program, as the curriculum will be fresh in your mind upon matriculation into the program. Furthermore, a retake demonstrates dedication to the knowledge needed to succeed in DPT program curriculum.
I originally felt unsure of my decision to retake Anatomy 1 & 2 last summer. The class took up a lot of time and I had already studied this material! However, I found that I gained a much more in-depth understanding of the material this time around and successfully earned ‘As’ in both courses to bump up my prerequisite GPA.
Some schools specify that ALL prerequisites must be taken at the 4-year university where you received your bachelor’s degree. Research your potential schools’ specifications before enrolling in additional classes.
Some programs also prefer that, rather than retake a course, you take an advanced course in that same subject. Admissions counselors are usually happy to speak more with you about this—don’t be afraid to reach out to them.
4. Learn PTCAS Pitfalls and Particulars
While applying to DPT programs via a common application may seem straightforward, PTCAS can be a daunting site to navigate. Reflect on your past application and look for “PTCAS pitfalls” to avoid next year.
For example, I took the GREs a second time to increase my overall score. However, when applying last cycle, I e-mailed admissions counselors to confirm that they had received my GRE scores without specifying which GRE date I was confirming. As a result, several schools only received my original GRE scores (aka the one I took with a 101° fever– Yikes!). I rectified this situation during this years’ application cycle by sending them my new scores and confirming the GRE test date that they received by calling or emailing.
Perhaps you rushed several essays to meet deadlines or reused essays while not specifically answering each school’s prompt. Reflect on your PTCAS navigation and application timeline. Leave yourself enough time to complete all PTCAS tasks well before posted deadlines. Rest assured that you can attack the next application cycle as a more informed and prepared applicant.
Did you know PTCAS offers pages of FAQs and a customer support e-mail to assist you while applying? Additionally, PTCAS is great about responding to questions via Twitter—just be sure that you maintain a professional and respectful presence when communicating with PTCAS accounts on social media.
PTCAS also provides a list of participating programs with quick information such as required supplements, acceptance rates, and cohort sizes. You can find that here: http://aptaapps.apta.org/ptcas/programlist.aspx
5. Don’t Give Up
Many students applying to PT school have been met with the conundrum of not getting into their top choice program. Based on the PTCAS 2016-2017 Applicant Data Report, 9,318 applicants did not receive admission offers. http://www.ptcas.org/uploadedFiles/PTCASorg/About_PTCAS/PTCASApplicantDataRpt.pdf
Admission into a DPT program is competitive to ensure that admitted students are prepared for the physical therapy curriculum and career. Admissions counselors respect and appreciate determination; reapplying to a program with an improved profile demonstrates that you can take criticism and adapt– both important qualities in exceptional physical therapists.